A window of the child to the world
When a baby is born, he is totally unaware of the outside world. The mother plays an important part in introducing him to the world. The outlook that the child will form towards life depends a lot on the mother. His attitude, his views – religious or otherwise- his perspective on life and its goals, will all be gained from her. Eventually he will mature and perhaps form his own changed views, but the initial years and what he learns in them will always have a lasting impression on his mind.
Model for the child
Since the mother is the most important person in the life of a child, she is greatly revered. Her habits and behavior become a model for the child. Whatever the child observes from her, such as her housekeeping habits, her manners, her relationships with others, the way she spends money, and in general her lifestyle, will all undoubtedly affect the child’s character. A mother is said to be better than a hundred teachers. Her emotional strengths and weaknesses are an example for the child, and will be followed for many years to come even though all of it may not be worthy.
People have been reported to be following their mother’s ways even when they know the mothers were wrong. It is almost like an unconscious reaction, and it takes effort to behave differently. Thus mothers have an important task of setting forth a good example. It may seem difficult, even impossible.
Many mothers think it too great a burden to be acting near perfect all the time, even in the familiarity of their own homes. However it is a good training. What mothers will change in themselves for their children will become a habit, and will lead to a real change. It is not perfection that Islam demands from mothers, but a willingness to accept the responsibility of modeling good acceptable behavior.
Many great people remember their mothers and the role they played in nurturing their greatness. Sayyid ar-Radhi, the compiler of Nahjul Balgha, mourned the death of his mother greatly. He wrote a poem for her in which he says:
Awareness of responsibility
Motherhood is a career, and those who take it up must try and excel at it. It is the duty of every mother to look into better techniques and strategies of parenting. A wide variety of material is available, both Islamic and secular. Although Islamic material may not be abundant in English, many secular books and magazines are published about parenting. Reading these from time to time helps increase awareness and vision. When a mother reads about problems that parents face, she is comforted by the fact that she is not alone. That is very reassuring as often parents assume they are the only ones having difficulties. Also, reading about solutions used by other people, or advice given by psychologists etc. helps broaden the choice of possible tactics in dealing with children.
Setting clear goals
A mother has to know what she expects from her children, and then explain that to them. It is not enough to want good children. The children must know what exactly is expected from them, and what the mother wants them to do. Sometimes a mother tells the child to lay the table properly.
Because it has not been explained to the child what properly means, he does it the way he thinks it right. The child may consequently be blamed for being sloppy, lazy etc. for not setting the table right. The frustration and heartache could have been avoided if the child knew exactly what was expected from him, rather than a vague order to lay the table.
The same can be applied to all chores, behavior with others, academic achievements etc. The mother must have definite goals of what she wants, and make them clear.
Encourage children according to their potential
Each child comes with his own distinctive potential. The Holy Prophet (S) has said: Human beings are like mines of gold and silver. Children have abilities that could lead to great achievements. Some show skill and interest in a certain area, while others prefer a different one.
Apart from not trying to compare children with one another, a good mother tries to bring out the best in each child. She makes the child develop his skills in whatever area he is good at, as well as remedy the weakness in each child. If one child is very shy, for example, the mother should not demand that he socialize and interact with others the way his siblings do.
Some mothers unwittingly put their children through a great deal of embarrassment and humiliation.
The child must be taught to overcome his shyness. Some books on shyness may help. Or the mother could give practical suggestions of what the child could talk about to others. A mother’s gentle guidance can remedy many a flaw and weakness in the character of the child.